baking cookies Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Sablés

Sablés, shortbread — call it what you will, it’s yummy.

This week’s TWD cookie (oh, I love it when it’s cookies!) was the French version of my beloved Scottish shortbread, and honestly, I think I liked it better. (I’m sorry, Scotland!) Dorie gives a basic recipe and then suggests several variations. I combined two of her suggestions (using ground almonds in place of some of the flour and adding cinnamon and nutmeg), and I think the possibilities are limited only by imagination. (Coconut? Cocoa powder? Grated chocolate???) Some I baked plain, some I sprinkled with raw sugar,

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and some I rolled in a combination of raw sugar and almond meal.

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Some I burnt.

They were all good. Really good. There’s not much more to say: They’re shortbread, with a particularly nice texture and flavor. I would make these again. I will make these again. I will use ground nuts in the dough again, probably pecans next time. (Would have been pecans this time, but Trader Joe’s failed me.) And I think I’ll try grated chocolate inside and coconut outside. Wow.

And from the family:

Husband: For being impregnated with almond, they were pretty good.

#1 Son: It was shortbread, a little chewier than shortbread I’ve had before, but nothing special.

#2 Son: Yum, sandy texture. Really good.

I guarantee you some fascinating variations among the many hundreds of bakers on the TWD blogroll. And try them yourself: Get Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or visit Barbara of Bungalow Barbara (she chose the recipe for us this week, and she’ll have it on her site for you).

More cookies next week!

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baking Dorie fruit

Tuesdays With Dorie: Rosy Poached Pear and Pistachio Tart

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Since I’ve been so bad about TWD lately, I was guilted into making this week’s recipe, which would normally have been an easy pass. I don’t like fruit. I don’t like wine. And it has an insane number of steps.

But make it I did. (Guilt is a terrible thing.) I started at 5 p.m. on a Saturday night (well, actually, I started around 4:30 by shelling the pistachios; my thumbnails still hurt). I caramelized the pistachios. I made the pastry cream. I poached the pears. And at a bit after 9, I plopped the pears and their wine into a bain marie and went to bed, exhausted.

And the next day I still had to make the crust. And the sauce (which I cooked too long; it turned into taffy when cool). And slice the pears.

There are some recipes that are worth this much trouble. The Chocolate-Banded Ice Cream Torte was marvelous. (And not that hard, really — just time-consuming.) The Daring Bakers strudel was delicious.

This one? Eh. I didn’t even eat a whole piece. Family liked it it, but not enthusiastically. Husband thought the pears were tremendous, but didn’t think they melded well with the pastry cream. #2 Son liked the pastry cream a lot, but passed on the pears. (#1 Son isn’t here at the moment, and I forgot to ask him what he thought; update to come!)

Looked pretty, though, especially before it was cut.

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This recipe was chosen for the TWD bloggers this week by Lauren of I’ll Eat You, and she’ll have the recipe for you to try yourself — if you dare. (Or you could buy Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, which is full of recipes that are much simpler than this one.) And check out what all the other TWDers did with it, too.

baking Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Sugar-Topped Maple Spice Cookies

I’m back! I’m so sorry — it’s been weeks. I haven’t baked, or cooked, or done anything, really, except try to lose weight and finish my part of my son’s college application and edit boring business articles.

I failed at the first and succeeded at the second two, and now it’s time for yummies again.

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Don’t like molasses. Not at all. And so I used maple syrup, and these were incredible. I couldn’t stop eating them. The dough was OK, but the cookies? Superb.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We had a potluck lunch to go to last weekend, which I decided was a perfect chance to rediscover my kitchen. I made the recipe exactly as written (except for the maple syrup switch); I even added the pepper, which my children assumed I’d be leaving out (an assumption based firmly on past experience, I must admit). I added the low-end amount, of course.

The dough mixed up easily. I made a double batch, leaving me with four chunks to wrap and cool. I froze two and refrigerated two, just to see if it made a difference in the final product. (It didn’t.)

The first batch I made the size Dorie recommends, but those cookies were far too big for my purposes. I was trying to feed a crowd, after all. So I experimented with the next few batches, finally ending up with 15-gram balls as the perfect size.

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I also tried both regular granulated sugar and Sucanat (whole cane sugar, with bigger crystals). Sucanat won, hands down.

spice cookies 2

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And I wrapped up my day of science by discovering that the cookies were yummiest (that’s the technical term) when I just barely flattened them; they maintained nice body that way.

As I may have mentioned, these were wonderful: soft and chewy and slightly crunchy and spicy and maply and wonderful. And really good.

Family liked them too, except for the freak:

Husband: I actually liked them quite a bit. [He generally doesn’t like gingersnaps or spice cookies.] They were nice and chewy for such a thin cookie. And because they were thin, the spice didn’t overwhelm it for me.

#1 Son: They were all right. I thought they could have used more spice flavor [editor’s note: I used only 75 percent of the ginger called for, because one of my sons, who will remain numberless but is leaving for college next September, neglected to put ginger on the shopping list last time he used it]. I actually liked the dough better than the cookies.

#2 Son: Those were delicious!

These are a perfect fall cookie. Make them for Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or a picnic if you live somewhere it’s still warm enough for such things (here in New Jersey it was actually near 70 today, I think — gorgeous). The recipe was chosen for the Tuesdays With Dorie group by Pamela of Cookies With Boys, one of my favorie TWD blogs. (Pamela has the recipe here.)

Seriously. Make them.

baking Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

Look! I did this week’s Dorie recipe! (I didn’t manage to do the Daring Bakers vols-au-vent, which made me very, very sad; I had a brilliant idea for what to fill them with. But I did make the tart, although I didn’t actually get to eat it.)

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But I made it, and that’s what counts.

I sent it off with Husband and Sons to have dinner with friends. I stayed home. I like staying home.

Honestly, I don’t have much to say about this one. We’re smack in the middle of college application season here, and #1 Son decided last Tuesday, quite unexpectedly, to apply early decision to a school that was not previously his first choice; the deadline is in three weeks. Things are a bit chaotic at the moment.

I made the tart exactly as Dorie says to make the tart. Everything worked the way Dorie said it would work. There were no problems.

I didn’t like the ganache, though. Too much. Too dark, too rich, too much.

#1 Son: Way too chocolatey. You can’t taste anything beyond the overwhelming miasma of chocolate tar. But it’s good — I like it! [Later] I scraped all the chocolate off and still couldn’t taste any caramel.

#2 Son: The tart crust is really good, but the chocolate’s a little overpowering. I can’t actually taste anything but the chocolate.

Assorted other people found it “yummy” and said “the chocolate is really delicious, not too heavy but not too light either, just the perfect weight” and “the caramel and the crust are awesome; the chocolate’s a little overwhelming” and “I like the caramel, and the crust is great. I could do with less chocolate, but that’s not me. I’m not a big chocolate fan” and “the chocolate is extraordinarily rich” (and she didn’t sound as if she thought that was a good thing.)

There was also a suggestion (from a man who works in the amazing bakery run by his son and daughter-in-law, Sweet Life in Vineland, New Jersey, and so knows what he’s talking about!) that it might have worked better to chop the peanuts a little finer. I did chop them, but apparently not enough.

Several people (including me, when I finally got a tiny sliver of leftover) scraped off most of the ganache, finding that what was left was the perfect foil to the caramel and nuts.

Last but not least however, is my main man and guest photographer (happy anniversary, Tim!):

Husband: Everybody else was crazy. The chocolate was in great proportion to the crunchy underbits, both flavor and texture.

So there you have it. Read all the other TWD bloggers‘ opinions, and then try it yourself (buy the book or visit Carla at Chocolate Moosey to get the recipe). But don’t say I didn’t warn you about the ganache.

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baking Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Chocolate Soufflé

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So, Susan of She’s Becoming DoughMessTic (already one of my favorite bloggers) got to choose the TWD recipe this week, and she chose a doozy: Chocolate Soufflé.

Little intimidating, right? I’ve never made a soufflé. I’ve never had a soufflé. Everything I know about soufflés comes from old TV shows and books, where they were always falling.

But the family made ummy noises when I mentioned that this week’s Dorie was soufflé, and I was stuck.

It was, in fact, really easy.

I cut the recipe in half and baked it in four oval ramekins, for about 20 minutes. My little soufflés didn’t manage to reach the lovely heights some others did, but they were all very pretty in their own understated fashion.

And I made coconut crème anglaise to go with it. I thought: “Vanilla? Good, but plain. Coffee? Good, but done to death. Mint? No.” So I opened the fridge for inspiration, and what should I see but a nice mason jar full of unsweetened coconut. I tossed half a cup in with the half-and-half while it heated, and then strained strained the finished crème.

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Well, that’s a lie. I poured the finished crème into a strainer, where it sat. And sat. And, well, you know. Eventually I squeezed out the coconut, handful by sodden handful. Messy.

And you know what? About 15 seconds after I dumped the coconut into the half-and-half, it occurred to me that I could have just used coconut milk, which for some strange reason (because I was planning to make chocolate coconut sorbet, if you must know) was actually sitting on the shelf next to the unsweetened coconut.


Anyway, I couldn’t taste much coconut in the finished crème anglaise, although it smelled lovely, but the family types all said they could (they love to lord their refined palates over me).

Oh, were we talking about soufflés?

Sorry. It was stunningly, marvelously, magnificently, stupendously good. Warm and light and airy and somehow rich and gooey at the same time. I cannot believe that I’ve wasted 42 years of my life without eating a chocolate soufflé.

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The menfolk liked it too:

Husband: The texture was incredible — rich chocolate flavor that really benefited from the coconutty crème anglaise. It was better with that vanilla and little bit of coconut flavor — they really sealed the dish. And for a first-time soufflé, it looked awesome.

#1 Son: [When I finished eating, he looked at me wolfishly and asked, “Are you going to clean your bowl?” I handed it over, managing not to lose a finger in the process.] It was delicious. The chocolate wasn’t too heavy, the texture was beautifully light, and the crème anglaise was a perfect accompaniment.

#2 Son: It was pretty good overall. I think it could have used more chocolate. I’d rather the crème anglaise had been plain vanilla, rather than coconut. [To be fair, he had a 102-degree fever, and had passed on the amazing hamburgers we had for dinner. I don’t think he was at his best.]

burger 1

#2 Son had some of his about an hour later, and said it was good cold. I wanted to leave some of mine to try later, but not enough to stop eating it while it was warm.

This was incredible. (Better, I think, in ramekins than in a large dish, if you can manage it.) Make it. Buy Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or check out Susan’s blog, where she’ll have the recipe and some wonderful photographs. And if you want to see lots of photos of tall, glorious soufflés, you could do worse than to check out some of the hundreds of other TWD bloggers.

See you next week!

souffle 3

baking Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was Espresso Cheesecake Brownies, chosen by Melissa of Life in a Peanut Shell.

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I don’t like cheesecake (although I did not-hate the Tall and Creamy Cheesecake last December). I don’t like sour cream or cream cheese (although the latter was awesome in the rugelach dough).

But I made these, because we were going to have dinner with friends, and when I mentioned the phrase “espresso cheesecake brownies” at least half of the couple seemed intrigued.

The recipe says to mix the brownie batter and then set it aside and mix the cheesecake layer, but I left the flour/baking powder/salt aside to mix in right before baking. I’m glad I did, because I think that kept my brownie batter from getting as thick as it might have (and as other bakers encountered). The only change I made to the brownie batter was the addition of ¼ teaspoon of almond extract.

The cheesecake batter was much thinner than I expected — like pancake batter — and that worried me, but it worked out fine. When I started to pour it over the brownie batter in the pan, though, I poured too fast, and it forced up a bit of the bottom layer. All’s well that ends well, though, and the marbling worked fine; when the brownies came out of the oven they had a lovely dark swirl on top. Which I promptly covered with frosting.

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The recipe clearly says to frost the brownies in the pan.

So I flipped them out onto a plate, then back onto another plate, to improve the setup for photographs.

But I broke two corners, which made me sad.

And then I actually read the instructions for the frosting and discovered that they involve melting the sour cream with the sugar and then pouring it on brownies.

So I put them back in the pan.

I made the frosting, and it tasted like sour cream. (I can’t imagine why.) So I added ¼ cup of cocoa powder and another ¼ cup of confectioner’s sugar, and it tasted slightly less like sour cream. I was happy.

The brownies looked great, and they were a big hit. One friend was left speechless and could only make little moans of pleasure. His 14-year-old daughter said: “I don’t like cheesecake, but it’s really really yummy.”

My 12-year-old son said: “The brownie could be chocolatier, the cheesecake is awesome, and the frosting could be a little less sour creamy [amen to that]. Other than that, yum.” And then he ate a second one.

My husband said this was his favorite Dorie in a long time. I ate a whole brownie.

So I think they went over well.

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There will be many variations on this theme among the Tuesdays With Dorie bloggers, and if you’d like to try these lovely brownies yourself, buy the book or visit Life in a Peanut Shell.

See you next week!

baking boys Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Creamiest Lime Cream Meringue Pie

I really haven’t been posting much lately; I just haven’t had time to cook anything interesting all summer (apart from my Tuesdays With Dorie recipes, of course). I will try to do better now that it’s cooling off out there.

I almost passed on this week’s TWD; I’m just not a huge fan of most pie, and I don’t particularly like lime (or lemon, or orange, or …). But the rest of my family loves lime everything, and there was a mini-rebellion when I suggested skipping this one.

So yesterday #2 Son and I went out and bought those baby graham crusts (thank you, Keebler) and made some pies.

He did the hard work, the zest grating and lime juicing and ingredient measuring.

lime pie 1

Isn’t it pretty?

lime pie 2

We took turns whisking the egg mixture over the simmering water; it took less than three minutes to get up to 180 degrees, so I guess our flame was a bit higher than Dorie’s suggestion, but it worked well. I’m not a patient person.

Straining didn’t work — the lime cream was just too thick to go through the holes, so I dumped it straight into the Vita-Mix and whirled it around. We used half the butter (thank you, P&Q), and boy, was that stuff tart.

We gave it three hours in the fridge — dinner was approaching, and as #2 Son pointed out, we had cut the recipe in half so it needed less time to cool. He did the shell-filling honors while I made the meringue (which I cooked a bit, following Peabody’s excellent suggestion; I used half a cup of sugar for two egg whites, which is slightly less sugar than Peabody calls for and more than Dorie calls for, but hey, I’m a rebel).

Then he applied the meringue artistically, six different ways, and I stuck them in the broiler, one at a time.

Turns out 30 seconds is too long.

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And 20 seconds is too short.

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But 25 seconds is just right.

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I was dubious about the broiler’s ability to set the meringue (which is one of the reasons I made Peabody’s version), but it was lovely. I actually liked the pie once all the components were together, and the rest of the family loved it:

Husband: I thought the marshmallowy meringue was a fantastic change. I probably wouldn’t have liked it as much with a more standard, chewier meringue. The lime flavor was spectacular, tart, deep, very pleasing. I could easily have eaten every single one of those little things.

#1 Son: The pie was delicious. The ginger in the lime filling made it bright and complex, and the marshmallowy meringue was a perfect companion.

#2 Son: I think the meringue could have been a little less sweet. The lime cream was good, but it had this weird aftertaste; I couldn’t figure out what it was. All in all, om-nom-nom, nom-nom, om-nom-nom. [Translation: That was quite delicious, Mother. May I have some more?]

There are sure to be many variations among the Tuesdays With Dorie bloggers, and Linda of Tender Crumb will have the recipe posted today. (Or buy the book!)

baking Dorie Friday dinner

Tuesdays With Dorie: Applesauce Spice Bars

I made these. I did. I took pictures. And then I worked constantly all weekend and all day Monday and didn’t write the post. I’m putting it up now, without photos, and I’ll update as soon as I can.

UPDATE: Now, with photos and actual content!

This is a funny color; I have no idea why. It wasn’t this color in real life:

applesauce 4

It was Friday night dinner, and #2 Son did the honors. This was his first wholly conceived and executed dinner (although he had a bit of technical assistance from the man of the house). He started with a pound of Trader Joe’s frozen chicken thighs, and from there I’ll turn it over to him:

“I chopped it into little bits, then I stuck it in a pan with 3 tablespoons of butter and sautéed it. While I was sauteeing it I put in three cloves of garlic, crushed into little bits, another half-stick of butter, and a little flour. And I added a generous serving of poultry seasoning and some kosher flake salt. I cooked it for about 8 minutes, till the chicken was brown and fried-ish. It had the outside consistency of the little bits of pork you get in pork fried rice. I served it over jasmine rice cooked with Star bouillon.”

He did. And we ate it. Not bad for 12, I think.

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And then we had the amazing applesauce spice bars, which were even more amazing the next day. And the next day. And the next day, even. (Can you tell the kids were away for most of that time?)

After reading the P&Q on the Tuesdays With Dorie page, I decided to double the glaze recipe, and I’m glad I did; that gave me extra to put on top of the vanilla ice cream I made (thank you yet again, David Lebovitz) to go with the bars.

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The result was perfect.

#1 Son: The cake was delicious and moist, with a nice range of flavors. The ice cream was kind of bland, though, and obliterated the subtlety of the cake when the two were eaten together. [Ignore him.]

#2 Son: The cake was moist; it was tasty. It could have used a little more cinnamon. The glaze was pretty good. The ice cream was awesome. It could have been less crystally, but other than that, delicious. Good with chocolate sauce, too.

Go read all the other TWD blogs, and then try these yourself. Really. Now. Buy the book, or go visit Something Sweet, where Karen will have the recipe for you.

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baking Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Brownie Buttons

The best-laid plans of mice and mothers …

So, this week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe was Brownie Buttons (chosen for us by Jayma of Two Scientists Experimenting in the Kitchen), which I thought would be perfect (in their unadorned state) for our Civil Air Patrol squadron’s cookout. I quadrupled the recipe, giving me (I hoped) 64 little bits of brownies to be inhaled by the cadets and their parents.

And you know what? Trust the recipe. Don’t be thinking “Oh, she can’t mean that. It must be a typo. I’ll just do it my way.”

Because you’ll be wrong.

It says to use mini muffin pans. Check. It says to put a teaspoon of batter in each. Check. But it also says that that teaspoon will fill the cups about two-thirds full. Not check. So I used a tablespoon of batter, which did.

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And the brownies baked fine. They came out of the oven. They were delicious, warm and cocoa-y and melty in my mouth. But there was no way I was going to get 64. So for the third batch I dropped back to a teaspoon of batter.

And they also baked fine, delicious, warm, etc. But then I dropped the fourth batch, losing most of them to the searing heat. And then I burned the fifth and sixth batches. And then I gave up.

So I didn’t take them to CAP, which made me very sad. But #1 Son saved the day yet again, first by making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies for the cookout and second by suggesting that the brownies we did have would be good as ice cream mix-ins.

As happens fairly often, he was right.

He suggested peanut butter ice cream, but I went with a flavor from Perfect Scoop that I’ve been wanting to try for ages: Vietnamese coffee. It’s just condensed milk mixed with and equal amount of extra-strong coffee (I used the cold-brewed decaf I always have in the fridge) and a little half-and-half and vanilla. The mixture was too sweet, but once it was frozen it was perfect. And #1 Son was right: The brownies were delicious in it. And under it. And near it.

brownie buttons 1

Try the brownies (either buy the book or visit Jayma’s blog for the recipe). Just don’t use too much batter. And check out the hundreds of variations produced by the Tuesdays With Dorie bloggers.

baking Dorie

Tuesdays With Dorie: Classic Banana Bundt Cake

This week’s Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, chosen for us by Mary of The Food Librarian, was for banana bundt cake. For a while now, my go-to banana bread/cake/yumminess recipe was courtesy of David Lebovitz, whose name seems to be popping up in my posts a lot lately. His reasonably healthful (when made with white while-wheat flour and walnuts, and only occasionally chocolate chips) banana cake shows up a lot on our weekend breakfast table, and I usually have a loaf in the freezer.

But I thought OK, I’ll try Dorie’s. I’ll be a good sport. And in fact, Dorie’s was good. But I’m spoiled by David’s, which I always make with the optional shot of espresso he recommends.

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I made the cake on Friday evening, figuring I’d let it sit overnight as Dorie recommends; we were having company for breakfast on Saturday. You’d think I’d have learned by now not to bake at night, because by 4 p.m. my brain has pretty much packed it in for the day. And yet.

I used white whole-wheat flour and Greek yogurt and added half a teaspoon of almond extract, but otherwise made the recipe straight. Oh, and the bananas I found in the freezer didn’t make up quite enough puree, so I filled it out with apple butter. I had intended to toast some pecans and toss those in there too, but, um, I didn’t. Much angst.

When I poured the batter into my trusty Bundt pan, it filled it nearly to the top. That worried me, because some of the P&Q comments mentioned that this cake rises quite a bit. So I put it on a cookie sheet. Yay me!

Half an hour later, when the top was brown (and there were lumps of batter spattered onto the cookie sheet), I tented the cake with aluminum foil. It made no appreciable difference. By the time the cake was finally done, at about 75 minutes, the top was actually burnt.

Luckily, the top of a Bundt cake is also the bottom!

When the cake finally made it to the table on Saturday morning, accompanied by Greek yogurt and fresh local blueberries, it looked very pretty. The 2-year-old girl who was visiting scarfed her piece right up; I wish I’d gotten a photo. She’s adorable. (She also loved the Tall and Creamy Cheesecake back in December — my perfect customer!)

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Anyway, we liked it. It was moist, although not as moist as I would have liked; I supposed I could have overbaked it, but it was mushy in the middle till right before I took it out of the oven for the last time. The banana flavor was good. I think I’ll stick with Mr. Lebovitz in future, but this one looks prettier, so it’s better for guests.

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Go see what all the other Tuesdays With Dorie bakers did with the cake. And if you want to try it yourself, buy the book, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, or head over to The Food Librarian.

See you next week!